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Countess Dracula (August 18/03)

Boy, talk about a misleading title. When you've got a movie called Countess Dracula, it'd be reasonable to expect it to be about Dracula's long lost wife or mistress (or something to that effect). That's not the case here, though; there isn't a single vampire to be found here, let alone one having a connection to the infamous Count.

Instead, the film follows the exploits of Countess Elisabeth Nodosheen (Ingrid Pitt), a bitter old woman that's feared by everyone in her village. While scolding one of her maids, she makes the startling discovery that any contact with the blood of a virgin instantly makes that portion of her body appear younger. Naturally, the Countess begins bathing in virgin's blood, and convinces everyone that she's actually her own daughter, Ilona (the real Ilona is kidnapped by a simpleton and sent to live in the nearby forest). While disguised as Ilona, the Countess finds herself falling in love with a young soldier named Imre Toth (Sandor Eles) - but she's finding it difficult to keep this charade up, as the virgin quotient of her village is dwindling quite rapidly.

Though there's no denying that this Hammer production is impressive on a visceral level, the movie just doesn't work otherwise. The most obvious flaw is the complete lack of a storyline; the Countess figures out this method for looking young, and that's about it. The film occasionally cuts to the real Ilona and her adventures with the speechless goon, but we're mostly stuck with the Countess. And she proves to be a terminally dull character, either barking orders at her servants as the old woman or lusting after Imre disguised as her own daughter. There's barely enough material here to fill a 22-minute episode of The Twilight Zone, let alone a full-length movie.

Pitt's fine in the central role, though she's not nearly as threatening as she's clearly meant to be. The real Ilona is played by a very young Lesley-Anne Down, while the rest of the cast is made up of unknowns. There's not much here worth recommending, and it's hard to imagine the film appealing to anyone other than Hammer completists.

out of

About the DVD: Countess Dracula is included in a double-feature DVD from MGM along with The Vampire Lovers. This letterboxed transfer is very impressive, and will likely please fans of the film (if such a person even exists). The disc also includes commentary track featuring Pitt, director Peter Sasdy, and screenwriter Jeremy Paul, along with a trailer.